By Daniel LaChance | The New Republic | November 3, 2015
Strapped to the execution gurney in Huntsville, Texas, Michael Hall told those assembled to watch him die that he was not the same man who had shot a 19-year-old woman to death 13 years earlier.
“The old is gone,” he said. “That person is dead.”
Stories of condemned inmates who find God and goodness while they await execution are nothing new. But in recent decades, they have become a lot more plausible. A century ago, the condemned counted their time on death row in months. Now they count it in years—and sometimes decades. Those executed in 2011, the year Hall was put to death, had spent an average of 16.5 years on death row.
As a historian of the modern American death penalty, I have argued that the extraordinary amount of time that now elapses between sentencing and execution has changed the public’s perception of capital punishment. It has also changed the condemned. Continue reading »